Football. Never. Stops.
As large portions of the world slow for the holiday period, this sport cranks things up yet another notch, delivering action in relentless fashion. England, Germany and Italy all squeezed cup and league action into the same week, while France, Portugal, Spain and the rest delivered their usual salvos.
We also saw a string of big games, with Arsenal hosting Liverpool, Bayern Munich playing Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid and Barcelona combining for a scintillating Clasico. Their results all affected the rankings heavily—particularly the latter.
The rankings are a season-long measurement of clubs, tracking teams throughout 2017/18 and taking into account results from all competitions.
Sides that have lost the fewest games naturally rank higher—though the strength of opposition met in a loss is considered—and both UEFA Champions League form and presence are used as tiebreakers for those with similar records. Teams that gather big wins against strong opposition get a boost.
20. Schalke 04 (New!)
Schalke can be delighted with their half-season's work. They sit second in the Bundesliga as we enter the winter break and on Tuesday beat Cologne in the DFB-Pokal to progress to the quarter-finals. It's about time we recognised their strength.
19. FC Porto (Stay)
FC Porto are making football look easy. They have won each of their past five games by at least a two-goal margin and are heavily fancied to lift their first Primeira Liga title since 2013.
18. Arsenal (Stay)
To fight back from two goals down is always impressive, but there's a lack of resiliency haunting Arsenal's play, and it was not surprising to see them squander the lead against Liverpool and end up with only a share of the spoils.
17. Lyon (Stay)
Olympique Lyonnais are easy to watch and easy to cheer for. Their youthful players are winning plaudits all over the world, and over the past six weeks they have bettered AS Monaco for points and performances, both domestically and in Europe.
16. Valencia (-4)
Three defeats in four for Valencia. As such, their slide down these rankings continues.
The first two losses in this run were away games in which they were shorn of Goncalo Guedes, but the most recent loss was at home to Villarreal with the Portuguese star back in the side.
Perhaps this honeymoon run is over.
15. Lazio (Stay)
Lazio beat Crotone 4-0 on Saturday thanks to four second-half goals. What kind of half-time team talks is Simone Inzaghi dishing out?
14. Tottenham (+2)
Burnley have proved to be a tricky customer for the top Premier League teams this season, but Tottenham Hotspur made light work of them on Saturday, beating the Clarets 3-0 thanks to a super Harry Kane hat-trick.
B/R Football @brfootball
Harry Kane is in a league of his own 🔥 https://t.co/Yb8eURc3pg2017-12-23 23:22:40
13. Chelsea (+1)
Everton have quickly become a strong, resilient side under Sam Allardyce's watch, so drawing a blank at Goodison Park isn't a terrible result. Saturday's result didn't damage the Blues' top-four aspirations—and that's all they have to aim for in the Premier League.
12. Liverpool (+1)
Liverpool's attacking display against Arsenal on Friday was quite something. The defending, though? That was something else entirely.
How long will manager Jurgen Klopp stand by and watch the same issues cripple this team?
11. Atletico Madrid (Stay)
The next four clubs in these rankings all lost a game this week, most in pretty galling circumstances, but because they all messed up, they all retain their spots.
Atletico Madrid failing to score isn't an eyebrow-raiser, but that doesn't make a 1-0 defeat to Espanyol any easier to take. It means they weren't able to take advantage of a golden chance to move even more clear of Real Madrid and Valencia.
10. Manchester United (Stay)
It was a pretty terrible week for Manchester United.
B/R Football @brfootball
Wednesday—concede in 93'—knocked out of the league cup. Saturday—concede in 94'—fall 13 points behind Manchester City. It's been a tough week for Manchester United https://t.co/TPlmBJW2yD2017-12-23 22:53:17
On Wednesday, they were victims of the fabled cup upset, dropping out of the Carabao Cup to Championship side Bristol City. On Saturday, they conceded in stoppage time to allow Leicester City to grab a point off them.
One can only imagine manager Jose Mourinho's mood at the Christmas meal on Monday.
9. Roma (Stay)
Out of the Coppa Italia and shown where the line is in Serie A. AS Roma's week illuminated how far they have to go to be considered a contender for silverware.
The slowness and predictability with which they play is a big problem—particularly against the strongest teams—and perhaps this week is a case of the performances, which haven't been great, finally catching up with them on the results sheet.
8. Real Madrid (Stay)
The last in this chain of losers is Real Madrid, who retain eighth spot despite losing El Clasico 3-0.
The truth is losing to this strong Barcelona side is nowhere near as bad a result as, say, United's blunder in Bristol or Roma's double defeat.
7. Inter Milan (-2)
After going almost half a season without losing a game, facing top teams like Roma and Juventus away from home during that time, Inter have lost two games in a row—to Udinese and Sassuolo.
The defeat to the latter felt particularly painful given Mauro Icardi, who has enjoyed an unbelievable season, missed a penalty that would have levelled matters at the start of the second half and would have changed the complexion of the game.
6. Napoli (+1)
Napoli appear to have recovered from their recent wobble, winning three straight games to continue leading the race for the 2017-18 Scudetto.
Marek Hamsik's strike against Sampdoria saw him surpass the mighty Diego Maradona to become the club's all-time leading goalscorer. What a servant he has been to the Partenopei.
B/R Football @brfootball
Napoli are top of Serie A at Christmas for the first time in 28 years 🔵 https://t.co/B3gmvHZU2B2017-12-24 09:10:30
5. Juventus (+1)
Two wins, two more clean sheets, progression in the Coppa Italia and an important, gap-inducing triumph over Roma in Serie A constitutes a superb week's work for Juventus.
The Bianconeri have gone eight games without conceding a goal, and it was perhaps fitting the man behind the positive storyline in that defence—Medhi Benatia and his increasing importance—scored the winner against Roma.
4. Bayern Munich (Stay)
We won't see Bayern Munich play for a little while, as they will spend a good chunk of January resting up or playing experimental friendlies.
Their final offering for the year was a victory over rivals Borussia Dortmund in the DFB-Pokal. They dominated the early stages and should have scored far more than two goals; things got a little uncomfortable at the end, but they were worthy winners.
Eleven points clear of second in the Bundesliga and into the quarter-finals of the cup they go.
3. Paris Saint-Germain (Stay)
Paris Saint-Germain end 2017 in a commanding position in Ligue 1, nine points clear at the top and in possession of most of the division's top-performing attacking players.
Edinson Cavani's 19 league goals lead the scoring charts; he's on course to beat his remarkable tally of 35 from 2016/17. Neymar's nine assists have him topping the creativity charts, while Kylian Mbappe is second with eight.
2. Manchester City (-1)
Manchester City beat Leicester on penalties to advance to the Carabao Cup semi-finals on Tuesday and followed that game with a commanding 4-0 win over AFC Bournemouth in the Premier League.
Their reward for a successful week's work? Losing their long-held throne atop these rankings. Read on. You'll understand why.
1. Barcelona (+1)
B/R Football @brfootball
👑 https://t.co/zgbOv9nIGD2017-12-23 15:12:43
Barcelona have been keeping pace with Manchester City in these rankings this season, winning almost as relentlessly as Pep Guardiola's side and pushing for this top spot. They were always going to need either City to lose or to pull off a stunning result to overtake the Premier League leaders. It was the latter that occurred at the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday.
Beating Real Madrid on their own patch is one thing; beating them 3-0 is another. They rode waves of pressure early on but upped the pace in the second half, scored a beautiful counter-attacking goal and took control from there.
All statistics via WhoScored.com.